Perfect PB&J

I should start this post by saying that I do not like jam or jelly at all. I have unpleasant memories of globby grape jelly on my childhood peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.  But this stuff is great on PB&J:

Crofter's SuperfruitCrofter’s makes four superfruit flavors: Asia, Europe, North America, and South America.  I love that the ingredient list is simple and completely organic: organic fruit, organic fair trade cane sugar, natural fruit pectin (gelling agent), and ascorbic acid (preservative).

The only flavor I’ve tried so far is the North American (pictured above), but I have the other three flavors on standby in the pantry (there was a sale at New Leaf, so we stocked up!).  The North American blend has a sweet, slightly tart flavor but I think more than anything, I like the texture. There are pieces of whole berries and it isn’t terribly sweet or syrupy.

My new favorite snack, especially before a bike ride:

PB, Jelly, and Sandwich with bite
Almond butter and Superfruit Spread on a sandwich thin. Yummy in my tummy.

I first saw Crofter’s on a blog that I follow (http://katheats.com) and I was intrigued.  It isn’t available at Publix, but I finally found it at a local grocery co-op, and a search on the Crofter’s website revealed that it is for sale at a number of health stores across Florida.  I would highly recommend this – it takes PB&J from kid food to a yummy, healthy, grown-up snack.

By the way, I am not getting $ or free products from Crofter’s to review their Superfruit Spread, so my opinion is not biased – I just wanted to share that I think it is a great find and part of a great snack!

Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad: Two Ways

About a week ago we went up to Georgia and Artie’s parents showered us with our second batch of summer produce, which I wrote about in this post.  The produce included a big bag of little red potatoes and a big bag of green beans.

Red Potatoes

Green Beans

I made a big batch of Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad (the recipe is at the end of the post), which we served two ways this week.

The first meal we had included Pesto Potato Salad, baked beans, and a veggie burger.  The Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad rounded out this very summery, holiday-picnic type meal in a unique and creative way without being too heavy like mayonnaise-based potato salads.  The veggie burger wasn’t half bad either – it was Amy’s brand (probably the best frozen veggie burger I’ve ever had) on a Pepperidge Farm whole wheat sandwich thin with mozzarella cheese, spinach, and Paul Newman’s Farmer’s Garden salsa.

Pesto Potato Salad 1

The second night, I transformed the Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad into what I’m calling Potato Salad Nicoise.  Nicoise Salad is a French salad which includes tuna, green beans, hard boiled eggs, tomatoes, onion, capers, and potatoes.  Artie isn’t a huge fan of canned tuna, so I came up with this while he was out of town.  To the original potato salad, I added canned tuna (prepared with a little bit of plain Greek yogurt and salt – I do not like mayonnaise) and a sprinkling of sliced black olives.  It wasn’t a perfect Nicoise potato salad since I was working with what I had in the pantry, but it was pretty good and I’d make it again.  Next time I would probably add some halved cherry tomatoes.

Potato Salad NicoiseAll in all, I’d say it was a week of good meals and a creative way to repurpose leftovers.

Pesto Potato and Green Bean Salad

This recipe makes a lot of potato salad.  If you aren’t serving this to a crowd or planning to eat it for multiple meals, you may want to cut the quantities below in half.

Scrub two pounds of red potatoes and then dry potatoes on a kitchen towel.  Cut potatoes in half or in quarters to make bite-sized pieces.  Place potatoes in a large stock pot and cover with cold water.  Bring the potatoes to a boil over high heat.  Boil potatoes until fork tender.

While the potatoes are boiling, wash one pound of green beans and cut into 1-inch pieces.  Just as the potatoes are finishing cooking, add the green beans to the pot and cook for one minute.  Remove the pot from the heat and drain the potatoes and green beans in a large colander.  Run the vegetables under cold water to cool before placing potatoes and green beans in a large bowl.

In a separate bowl, mix together eight ounces pesto (store bought or homemade) and 18 ounces Greek yogurt*.  Top the potato and green bean mixture with the pesto and yogurt mixture and stir gently to combine.  Cover and refrigerate until chilled.  Serve cold.

*The amount of yogurt you use will depend upon how creamy you like your potato salad.  The first time I made this, I used a 1 to 1 ratio of pesto to yogurt and the salad was too dry.  The last time I made it, I used the measurements above and it came out much better.  Also, if you aren’t a fan of the tangy flavor of Greek yogurt (which I love) you could substitute sour cream or plain yogurt for up to one-third of the Greek yogurt.

Zucchini and Tomato Risotto

When we went to Georgia for my Grandma’s birthday, we received an abundance of zucchini my parents grew in their bountiful garden.  Not totally sure what to do with all of the zucchini, Jill and I started looking through cookbooks for inspiration. I came across a recipe for risotto. While I did not make the recipe I found, I did get inspired to make a risotto. This is my blending of two classic foods:  zucchini with tomatoes and risotto.

To make this risotto the way I did, you will need the following ingredients:

Ingredients on display

  • 1 and 1/2 cups arborio rice
  • 4 cups vegetable broth
  • 5.5 oz tomato Juice
  • 5 shallots, finely diced
  • 5 zucchini, chopped
  • 1/2 cup chardonnay
  • 15oz can diced tomatoes (I used fire roasted)
  • salt and pepper
  • parmesan cheese

To create the liquid for the risotto, I poured the vegetable broth, tomato juice, and liquid from the can of diced tomatoes into a pot over medium heat. Before the liquid began boiling, I turned the heat down to low and let the liquid simmer.

In a large skillet, I heated a nice glug of olive oil over medium heat. I didn’t measure the olive oil, but it was probably about 2 tablespoons. I sautéed the shallots until they were soft and add the zucchini and Chardonnay. I cook this for about 5 minutes, while stirring often.

Zucchini and Shallots
Zucchini and Shallots

I then added the arborio rice and cook the mixture for another minute. I added about a cup of the warm vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid to the zucchini, shallot, rice mixture and stirred until the liquid was absorbed. I then added about a half of a cup of the liquid and stirred until it was absorbed. I did this until all of the vegetable stock-tomato juice liquid was absorbed. I then added the diced tomatoes to the risotto and stirred for a few minutes.

Risotto Cooking on the StoveI turned the heat down to low and seasoned the risotto with salt and pepper. I then shredded parmesan cheese over the top of the risotto.

Risotto plated

Shortcut Blueberry Peach Pie

I had perfectly sweet, perfectly ripe blueberries for breakfast this morning, which made me think of this pie.  I think the flavors and textures of blueberries and peaches are very complementary.  I prefer the blueberry-peach combination over an all berry pie.  There isn’t a lot of sugar in this pie – the recipe relies on the natural sweetness of the fruit, brought out by bright, citrusy lemon juice.

Blueberry Peach Pie

This creation was pretty easy to whip up but the lattice top makes it look like I spent forever in the kitchen.  While you could use fresh peaches or make your own pie crust, my shortcuts get me in and out of the kitchen in no time, which makes this a great dessert for a lazy summer weekend.

For this pie, I used a package of store-bought pie crusts: one was used for the bottom and the other was rolled out and cut into strips to make the lattice (for help with your lattice crust, check out this website: Simply Recipes.).   If I’m feeling industrious, I make my own crust but in the middle of the summer when it is 100 degrees outside I’ll take the help from the grocery store.   Frozen peaches hold up better than frozen blueberries, which makes frozen peaches a great substitute when I can’t find ripe, fresh peaches or I don’t feel like blanching and peeling two pounds of peaches.

I don’t follow an exact recipe for this pie, but below is my best recollection of the recipe:

Blueberry Peach Pie

two refrigerated, pre-prepared pie crusts

pint of blueberries, rinsed and patted dry

16-ounce bag of frozen peach slices, thawed and drained

juice from half a lemon

sugar, to taste (I think I used 1/4 cup)

1-1/2 tablespoons corn starch

pinch of salt

two tablespoons butter, cut into small pieces

Line a 9-inch pie pan with one pie crust. In a bowl, gently combine blueberries, peaches, lemon juice, sugar, cornstarch, and salt (if you mix this together too vigorously, you will smash the blueberries). Spoon the fruit mixture into the pie crust. Dot the fruit with small pats of butter. Using the second crust, create a lattice top on the pie.  Wrap the edges of the pie with aluminum foil so they don’t burn. Bake at 350 for 35 to 40 minutes or until the crust is golden brown. and the fruit is bubbly. Allow to cool for 20 – 25 minutes. Serve with vanilla ice cream or whipped cream.

Blueberry Peach PieBlueberry Peach Pie

Roasted Eggplant and Tomato Soup

Jill’s favorite food is eggplant. At least it was last time I checked. Combining her love for eggplant with her childhood stories of watching David the Gnome while eating tomato soup, I ventured to make this recipe. I also had the good fortune of being given some fresh eggplant my parents grew.

This recipe begins with ingredients shown below:

Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock
Eggplant, Tomatoes, Onion, Garlic, and Chicken Stock

The two japanese style eggplants from my parents garden were supplemented with an Italian style eggplant from Publix. Olive oil, salt, pepper, cilantro (from my garden) and goat cheese are not shown in the photo.

After slicing the veggies in half, they were all seared in a little olive oil before going into the oven to roast.

Searing the eggplants

After about 25 minutes in a 350 degree (F) oven, the roasted veggies should be caramelized nicely. After making this recipe the first time, I could definitely roast more garlic. Much more garlic.

Roasted Veggies
Roasted Veggies

Before pureeing the vegetables in a food processor, the eggplant pulp should be pulled away from the skin. If your vegetables have roasted enough, this should be easy to do. Blend the roasted vegetables in a food processor with some of the chicken broth until smooth. Pour the puree into a pot over medium heat. At this point, it probably will not look overly appetizing and will resemble baby food like the photo below.

Roasted Vegetable Puree
Roasted Vegetable Puree

As the puree heats up, gradually add more of the chicken stock and stir to incorporate. I ended up using a total of four cups of chicken stock, including the stock used while blending the vegetables. After incorporating the stock, the soup looked like this:

While the soup simmered, I decided to add goat cheese. I lightly browned the goat cheese in a small amount of olive oil, but would probably add unheated goat cheese next time.

Warmed goat cheese
Warmed Goat cheese

To finish things off, I added cilantro from my garden to the soup as a garnish and served.

Soup in bowls
Soup and Goat Cheese Garnished with Cilantro

This recipe was adapted from “Charred Eggplant-Tomato Soup with Cilantro” from Cat Cora’s cookbook Cooking from the Hip.

Veggies Fresh from GA

Happy Birthday, Granny Fay!

Artie and Granny Fay

We went up to Georgia on Sunday to celebrate Granny’s birthday with the family.  Artie’s dad grilled burgers and we were in charge of bringing dessert.  Artie whipped up two delicious blueberry cobblers, using a recipe from The Pioneer Woman Cooks:

Cobblers in the carCobblers in the car

The cobblers, nestled in the back seat of the car on the way to Bainbridge. (That little tupperware container between the cobblers contained a frozen veggie burger on ice.  It was an Amy’s brand veggie burger and it was pretty yummy for a frozen meat substitute.)

While we were in Georgia, Artie’s parents loaded us up with goodies from their garden.  Behold our eats for the next week:

Clockwise from top right – new potatoes (destined for a pesto potato salad), yellow squash, cucumbers (likely to end up on a hummus sandwich), beans, beets (definitely going to be roasted), and carrots

Veggies 2

Clockwise from top right – blackberries, baby plums, and zucchini

Veggies 1Oh, and also some unpictured eggplants but we ate them before I could snap a picture!  So now you know how Artie got his green thumb.  So excited for fresh produce.  Expect to see these items show up in meals later this week!

Pasta with Arugula, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts

I’m always looking for quick, easy meals for dinner.  This is a great dinner that comes together in 20 minutes or less.  The recipe is very customizable.  Swap the arugula for baby spinach or the goat cheese for cubed fresh mozzarella.  Don’t like nuts?  Try adding beans instead.  Want to amp up the veggies?  Add a diced red bell pepper or increase the amount of greens.  One of the best parts of this recipe: the leftovers are perfect for a cold lunch salad the next day.

Pasta with Arugula, Goat Cheese, and Walnuts

3/4 pound pasta (I used rigati)

4 – 6 ounces baby arugula (also called roquette)

1 lemon

4 ounces goat cheese

walnuts (about 1/2 cup)

olive oil

salt (not pictured)

Arugula Pasta_Ingredients

Cook the pasta according to the package directions for al dente.  Make sure the water is well salted – this is your chance to flavor the pasta.

Arugula Pasta_Pasta

Spread the walnuts on a foil-lined sheet pan (easy cleanup!) and toast in a 350 degree oven for 5 – 7 minutes.  Alternately, you could toast the walnuts in a skillet over medium heat.  This brings out the flavor of the walnuts.

Arugula Pasta_Walnuts

Put the arugula in a large bowl.  Zest the lemon over the arugula.  Then cut the lemon in half and squeeze the juice over the arugula.  Toss the arugula in the lemon zest and juice so it is well coated.

Arugula Pasta_Lemon

When the pasta is finished, add the drained pasta to the arugula.  Top with olive oil and the toasted walnuts.  Toss well.  The arugula should begin to wilt.

Arugula Pasta_Mixing 1Arugula Pasta_OilArugula Pasta_Mixing 2

Crumble the goat cheese over the arugula, pasta, and walnut mixture.  Toss well.

Arugula Pasta_Goat Cheese

Portion into four bowls.  Serve with a glass of chardonnay and enjoy!

Arugula Pasta_Finished

Adapted from Lemony Pasta with Arugula from Everyday Food magazine.